Newsletter 35: ‘Erasing our voices won’t change anything’
We’d love to report that the new decade has brought a wave of sweeping change to the world’s policymakers. Sadly, this is not the case. Instead, it’s still business as usual for our supposed leaders and those who spread their message.
This week’s issue is particularly rife with reports of the media and its tendency towards misrepresentation. The act and art of telling the truth has never seemed so vital or so distant. In Davos, we saw the cropping out of African activist Vanessa Nakate from her place in a photo alongside some of the planet’s youngest and bravest campaigners.
Elsewhere, the Spanish government has tentatively announced a Climate Emergency. While this is progress of a sort, we respond by saying: Good, but not good enough. Words and gestures are useless without significant action to underpin the statement.
On the topic of actions matching words, this week’s History Corner tells the extraordinary story of the environmental victory every forgot: a welcome reminder that change is possible!
In other news, we celebrate the bravery and creativity of XR Belgium, who carried out a powerful action at a car show involving over 180 arrests. What a way to start the new year! Meanwhile, rebels in Norway have seen some success in campaigning against one of the leading media conglomerates of the country, demanding truth and justice for the planet.
Finally, in line with our efforts to reach rebels in all parts of the world, we are pleased to announce that the International Newsletter is now being translated into over six languages! The amazing XR Translators team have been working tirelessly, and are currently seeking volunteer translators from outside of the West/Global North.
See Announcements for a celebratory message from the team, and see here for previous Newsletter issues in multiple languages – you can change languages using the button in the top-right corner!
This Rebellion needs your support. If you can’t give time, please consider giving money.
- Action Highlights
- History Corner
- XR Content
- Humans of XR
Shell-Shocking Scenes at Brussels Motor Show!
18 JAN | Brussels, Belgium
Extinction Rebellion Belgium organised a powerful and striking mass-action of civil disobedience on the busiest day of the Brussels Autosalon. About 250 rebels participated, with 185 arrests.
Its purpose: ‘to correct the deceitful image the car industry portrays of itself…[to denounce] the many lies which car manufacturers keep selling to the public, to increase their sales at the cost of the environment, people’s health and social justice.’
Die-ins were staged, vehicles smeared with fake blood and rebels chained themselves to steering wheels.
The Shell stand was a main focus. Rebels held a ‘Shell Kills’ placard, wore masks made from the company logo and handed out leaflets highlighting the auto industry greenwash e.g. – The use of environmentalist rhetoric while simultaneously producing and selling huge numbers of heavily polluting vehicles.
At the entrance and exit to the show, dozens of rebels, many of whom were teenagers, staged a mass die-in. An XR banner was unfurled, and in the car park, fake parking tickets placed on windows of vehicles.
The XR actions were described as ‘anecdotiques’ (trivial) by FEBIAC, the organisers of the show, yet they previously applied for a judgement to prohibit and/or place heavy fines on civil disobedience during the motor show, claiming it would suffer irreparable damage. XR lawyers are presently analysing the order.
It is/was never the intention of XR to cause damage, nor to block the fair or target visitors, but to raise awareness and call for a new model of transport which respects the ecological and social good.
Snow Rebellion: The Long Road to Davos
21 – 24 JAN | Davos, Switzerland
Rebels, Climate Strikers, and other environmental activists converged on a remote ski resort in Switzerland last week to speak truth to the most powerful people on the planet.
The annual World Economic Forum in Davos attracts presidents, princes and business billionaires. Traditionally, they have ignored environmental concerns to champion unfettered economic growth before flying home on private jets.
But this year’s conference showed a new direction. Finally there was a focus on the climate emergency, with sessions on sustainability, cutting emissions, and the financial instability the global crisis will bring.
Determined rebels reached the ski resort after braving the cold on a three-day hike across the Swiss Alps. Their message to the delegates was simple. Business as usual is no longer acceptable. Just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of carbon emissions since 1988. They all attended the World Economic Forum.
But after four days, it was clear they weren’t prepared to make any real change. While some attendees talked the talk when it came to the ecological and climate emergency, the deadlines for action remained the insanely distant 2050, and no major concessions were made to cut current emissions.
A rebel who attended the conference told reporters, “If you’re in an emergency, you don’t let it get worse for thirty years before tackling it… We need to be carbon zero by 2025.”
For the second year running, Climate Strike activist Greta Thunberg made a key speech at the four day conference, batted away insults from those who should know better and ultimately left the event feeling frustrated.
Cropped out of the Conversation
24 JAN | Davos, Switzerland & Uganda
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Ugandan Vanessa Nakate was cropped out of a headlining Associated Press image featuring a group of prominent climate activists.
She was in Davos to bring global attention to the climate-related struggles of the African people and to the plight of the Congo Rainforest, the second largest rainforest in the world.
”Africa is the least emitter of carbons, but we are the most affected by the climate crisis. You erasing our voices won’t change anything,” she said in her compelling video response to having her presence removed from the image.
Nakate has been protesting in front of the Ugandan Parliament every week since January, 2019, demanding the country’s leadership declare a climate emergency. She has persevered, despite the wariness of parliamentary security. “In Uganda, people who protest in large groups are at risk of being arrested,” she said.
In her efforts, she highlights the injustice of climate change. Many Ugandans depend heavily on agriculture for their livelihood. Alternating floods and droughts devastate crops and raise food prices. The most privileged, the biggest carbon emitters, can weather the fluctuations. Whereas, she says, “Literally, in my country, a lack of rain means starvation and death for the less privileged.”
Starting in October, 2019, Nakate has been striking daily for the Congo Rainforest. Since 2001, about 6% of the rainforest has been lost – an area roughly the size of England. The main agents: industrial logging, mining, urban expansion, and large-scale agriculture. The charcoal trade cuts into the rainforest as well. Most of the region’s poor rely on charcoal for cooking, reminding us of the importance of an equitable transition to ecological justice.
The movement Nakate started with her lone protests has gained momentum. She has since founded Youth for Future Africa and the Rise Up Movement. Globally, people have joined her campaign to Save the Congo Rainforest.
XR Uganda is also in open rebellion against the current climate crisis. After months of extraordinary rainfall, many people lost their lives and their homes to heavy flooding in the Bundibugyo district. XR Uganda mourns in solidarity with Bundibugyo. They are campaigning to raise money for the victims and their families.
Spain Declares a Lacklustre Climate Emergency
21 JAN | Spain
The Spanish government has declared a climate emergency, taking the country’s first small steps towards action on climate change. The left-wing coalition says it will bring forward legislation within its first 100 days in office that will work towards transitioning the country to renewable energy.
Environment Minister Teresa Ribera said Spain was inspired by actions in France and will follow suit by creating a public advisory panel.
The climate emergency declaration came on January 21, as powerful storm Gloria battered much of eastern Spain, killing at least 13 people, flooding miles of crop fields and prompting the government to call an emergency meeting to deal with the impact of the storm. Collapsed bridges, damaged railway lines and entire beaches were wiped away, with hundreds of dead fish being washed ashore and a waist-deep carpet of seafoam engulfing entire streets.
Scientists warn climate targets must be reached or southern Spain could be reduced to a desert by the end of the century.
Extinction Rebellion Spain responded by saying: ‘Good, but lacking ambition. We continue.’
Rebels are focusing on the enactment of an effective citizen’s assembly: ‘A citizen’s assembly shows that people can act directly in public decision-making at the national level and that the institutional design taken by the Spanish government guarantees that participation. We will work to ensure the effectiveness of this Citizen Assembly.’
Spain now joins the European Union and nine other countries worldwide in declaring a climate emergency. So far, national climate emergency declarations have been made by Argentina, Austria, Bangladesh, Canada, France, Ireland, Malta, Portugal, and the United Kingdom.
In 2019, the final year of the hottest decade on record, climate emergency declarations sounded the alarm, with thousands of cities around the world declaring an emergency. About 800 million people around the world now live in places that have declared a climate emergency – that’s one in ten people on the planet.
XR Norway Pushing for the Truth
12 JAN | Norway
In Norway, the average temperature for January has been more than 7 degrees above normal. There is no snow, and a group of rebel skiers made this very clear, as they slogged along on asphalt outside the NRK: Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation.
Norway has become rich as a major exporter of oil (exporting one third of European oil) and gas (third largest gas exporter in the world) as well as being one of the largest producers of fertiliser. The government aims to keep producing until at least 2070, with several ministers for oil having declared that “we’ll take up all the oil and gas we find”. Whilst seen as a “green” country, Norway is the seventh largest GHG emitter in the world if you include the “exported” emissions.
Rebels have also targeted one of the nation’s largest media conglomerates, the Schibsted group, who own newspapers, online news sites and other media, and are supportive of Norway’s oil and gas industry. This support includes the promotion of regular advertorials favouring major fossil fuel exporter Equinor, which is active in 26 countries.
Stein from XR Norway commented: “We demanded that the work for Equinor should cease and that environmental groups should be given space to counter the propaganda. (…) The action got a lot of attention and, by Friday, the Schibsted group declared that the Equinor campaign had reached its end and that future advertorials would be easier to distinguish from the editorial content of the papers!”
This is a major success in challenging the media practice of spreading positive messages about the fossil fuel industry and promoting climate change denying opinions.
Celebrating the amazing work of XR Translators!
XR Translators are a newly incubated and growing team inside the I & I (Information and Infrastructure) working group. They work with approx 50 volunteer translators in around 10 languages and are looking to welcome new people and new languages, especially those from Asia and the Global South!
If you’re interested in getting involved with XR Translators, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘We are the Dead Canaries!’ UK action
Every Wednesday in February, UK rebels will be putting pressure on the powers that be to oppose the extension of an opencast mine in County Durham in the north of England.
Coal is killing us, destroying communities and ecosystems and the air that we breathe.
Radiation in the Oil and Gas Industry: Q&A
Oil-and-gas wells produce nearly a trillion gallons of toxic waste a year!
On Thursday 30th Jan at 6pm GMT, XR UK will host an online call open to any member of XR where you can hear author Justin Nobel discuss levels of toxic waste produced by the oil & gas industry.
Send us your audio recordings from actions around the world!
The XR Podcast are doing a live event as part of XR’s Decarbonise! Decolonise! programme of talks and panels at London’s VAULT Festival on March 1st.
We are looking to create a soundscape featuring audio taken at actions from around the world, to highlight what it’s like to be a part of XR globally.
Please send us clips recorded from around the world, stating where and when they were taken, to email@example.com by February 10th.
The Ozone Layer: The Environmental Victory Everyone Forgot
Imagine this: there’s a terrifying environmental threat caused by chemical emissions that could destroy all life on earth. The companies producing the emissions put out all the disinformation they can to keep their businesses going. However, the governments of the world unite to remove those chemicals from production, and the world, miraculously, heals.
This isn’t a fairytale about climate change. This is the real story of a grave environmental threat that was at the top of everyone’s mind in the 1980s, but has been largely forgotten by the public today. Here’s the story about how the people won a victory and protected our planet from the holes in the ozone layer.
Read in full here.
‘A year inside XR’: Reflections from a rebel in XR UK
Humans of XR
‘We were on the streets for two weeks in October to speak to Government, but now we’re here to speak to corporations and industries, especially firms like BlackRock who have a massive impact through their investments.
As we move into climate and ecological collapse, companies like BlackRock keep financing companies like JBS and Cargill – both among the world’s largest meat producers – pouring money into them when they’re fully aware that these companies are responsible for the majority of Amazon deforestation.
Animal Rebellion is a sister movement to XR, we share the same values and principles and we share the same goals. We ask Government to tell the truth, but we also ask that they tell the truth about the livestock industries’ contribution to climate change. We believe that the second demand of XR cannot be achieved without putting an end to the intensive livestock and fishing industries.
Since I joined XR and Animal Rebellion, I’ve found a place of acceptance as well as an overwhelming sense of power to change things. I’ve also extended my compassion to humanity and opened my eyes to the rest of the world rather than just my immediate surroundings. Now I feel that I can sense the interconnectedness of people and animals and other natural systems.’
Dora, Software Engineer. London via Hungary
We are receiving amazing human stories and we want to know yours. To read more – or to write your own – join our Facebook group.
Thank you for reading. There’s so much exciting stuff going on in the movement that we barely have time to write this sign-off. Keep up the good work! If you have any questions or queries, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As we enter this crucial phase in human history, our Rebellion will need money to make sure our message is heard. Anything you can give is appreciated.
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